Experts, special guests for 2016 Virginia Conference on Agritourism announced

economic-forecast-headerVirginia agritourism is part of growing Virginia’s “New Economy.” Farmers, economic development staff, and local government leaders are gathering for the 2016 Virginia Conference on Agritourism on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 5 and 6, at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in Halifax, Virginia, to explore innovative strategies.

Over 50 speakers will deliver dynamic, relevant, and interactive presentations on opportunities and challenges for agritourismentrepreneurs.  Participants will explore promising practices for farm events such as weddings and music, social media, marketing, hospitality, regional networks, zoning and conservation, financing and legal structures, wineries and farm craft breweries, bed and breakfast, food and farm safety, farm workforce, and businesses planning.

Special guests include the Honorable Maurice Jones, Secretary of Commerce and Trade; the Honorable Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; the Honorable Danny Marshall, House of Delegates and chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources; and Mary Rae Carter, Special Advisor for Rural Partnerships.  On Tuesday afternoon, conference participants will tour one of four farms including Hudson Heritage Farms partnering with Greenwood Vineyards, Reese’s Farm Fresh, Hunting Creek Vineyards partnering with Bright Meadows Farm Winery, or ShangrilaGuest Ranch.

“Every session is bursting with engaging speakers and tools for Virginia’s agritourism industry” said Martha Walker, community viability specialist for Extension.  “Our state planning team has secured an outstanding lineup of experts to share their knowledge.  Anyone working with agritourism will want to be in Halifax County for this conference.”

Denise Hudson with Hudson’s Farm Feed and Hudson Heritage Farms is also offering a pre-conference workshop on Monday, April 4, and a farm to table dinner on Tuesday evening.

Register on-line by visiting and complete the registration process before Friday, March 25.  You may register for one day ($95) or both days ($135).  For more information, contact Dr. Martha A. Walker, Virginia Cooperative Extension, by phone at 434-766-6761 or by e-mail at

The conference is sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, Farm Credit, Virginia Association of Counties, Virginia Department of  Agriculture and  Consumer Services, Virginia FAIRS, Virginia Tourism Corporation, and USDA Rural Development.

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Martha A. Walker, Central District Office, at 434-766-6761 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event.  *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

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